Dawn of a new database

Oracle makes an OK database. Microsoft's SQL Server and IBM's DB2 aren't bad either. But as data gets collected over wireless networks and the demand for a warp-speed response increases, all of these well-established -- dare I say, old-time -- companies may soon get a rude awakening. You see, transactional databases are coming into their own.

Medford, Mass.-based Trakus Inc. collects sports data in real time with its DSI (Digital Sports Information) platform and displays the statistics on television, the Internet and the wireless Web. The company has a contract with the National Hockey League to place radio tags inside each player's helmet that measure 30 different inputs per second. That comes out to 1,296,000 discrete pieces of data per game.

The tags measure a player's skating speed, puck control, distance skated, location and even the impact when two players collide, called the Hit Gauge.

That data is then taken and reformatted. Depending on the device accessing the DSI application, it can even create a real-time animated version of the game called GameViewer.

Chief Technology Officer Bob McCarthy says Trakus tried Oracle Corp.'s database, but it was too slow. It tried some other traditional SQL-type databases, and none of them came close to meeting the transactional requirements. Only the Cache transactional database from Cambridge, Mass.-based InterSystems Corp. could handle the job. See what I mean?

Klas Enterprises LLC, a research company for the health care industry, surveyed organizations that were using applications based on Oracle and InterSystems databases. Salt Lake City-based Klas found that health care professionals were far more satisfied with the instantaneous response-times of Cache compared with the Oracle database, according to Adam Gale, vice president of Klas.

A wireless carrier in Europe is talking to InterSystems about a way to store all of its Short Messaging Service messages. Again, something a relational database can't really handle.

Think about it. In the old days, only employees had access to a company database, which was typically used to collect and analyze data and issue reports. Now, anybody with a cell phone can access a database, and it must respond to not hundreds but hundreds of thousands of users, says Paul Grabscheid, vice president of strategic planning at InterSystems.

Grabscheid's last word: "Oracle is an old technology, a quarter-century old. They are clearly king of the hill now, and no one is going to knock them off, but I believe their time has passed."

I also spoke to Oracle, and here's the last word from Bob Shimp, vice president of database product marketing: "They [InterSystems] are an extremely small niche product designed for a highly specialized type of market."

"However," Shimp added, "we're interested in this market, in memory database systems, but [we're] not ready to announce anything yet."

Hmmm.

Schwartz is an editor-at-large at InfoWorld. Contact him at ephraim_schwartz@infoworld.com.

Special Report

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Taming Data Chaos

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This story, "Dawn of a new database" was originally published by InfoWorld.

Copyright © 2002 IDG Communications, Inc.

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